Mary and Joseph head north to Bethlehem, the town of David, for a census ordered by Caesar Augustus. Upon arrival to Joseph’s hometown, Mary gives birth to Jesus. The familiar Christmas cast expands to include Simeon and Anna in this chapter. Both of these older adults proclaim Jesus as Messiah. In this passage,
Simeon’s proclamation is his “ah-ha” moment, and it speaks to us about salvation, in other words, belonging.
Where do you belong?
Joseph belongs to the house of David, similar to us belonging to the home of our parents. And our children belong to us. So, where does all of this “belonging” fit in?
Luke does not tell us the lineage of Simeon. And maybe that is for a good reason. I’d like to think that Simeone is you and me!
A recent study found when social relationships provide a sense of belonging; people feel life has more meaning.* We know some of us are more social than others due to different personalities, levels of mood, amount of energy, and time. Whether we feel social or not, we can know with certainty that we do belong to the family of God. Why? Because God loves us. Nothing can separate that love from us. God’s love is eternal; it can bring us a sense of belonging and contentment.
As parents, we hope our children have a sense of belonging – to their heavenly Father and us. Earthly relationships can be full of disappointment and sadness when loved ones choose to be “un” belong themselves – stagnant, separated, divorced, or estranged. God never does this; like a parent, God accepts us and loves us unconditionally. This unconditional love makes us feel loved and provides us with a broad sense of belonging in life.
To those of you out in this world who have turned your back on unconditional love – maybe it’s time to turn back toward it again? Thoughts?
Human families – bringing us a sense of belonging is crucial in all aspects of life.
Action: Discuss belonging and separation with a loved one.
18 The word of the Lord Almighty came to me. 19 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.” 20 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.” 23 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”
Thought: Zechariah, one of the Old Testament prophets, writes about sad and challenging fasts and how joyful and pleasant feasts replace the sad fasts. He tells people a message of God’s love for His people, reminiscent of holidays when families gather around a table to share a meal.
What holidays do you and your family celebrate?
Families make plans and celebrate all types of holidays such as New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Passover, Labor Day, Holi, or Christmas. Some families come together each year for a family reunion while others celebrate a holiday unique to them. Some host Hawaiian Luaus, Memorial Day picnics, and others watch fireworks and picnic on the 4th of July.
Tradition, according to Wikipedia is, “a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.” * Traditions are true because they are believed to be true. In the case of Passover, angels of death passed over the Israelites, who had brushed the lamb’s blood, over their doorframes. (Exodus 12:7). God saved the Israelites, and the tradition of celebrating Passover acknowledges the event and commemorates it.
Traditions can last thousands of years or last only a few. However long a tradition continues, it creates memories. Holiday gatherings take place year after year and our children expect a house full of relatives. Right? Yet, we often forget how separation and divorce changes tradition. In some cases, it ends. Families no longer gather as years pass.
Thankfully, the truth of God’s love is eternal and not measured by years of tradition or mistakes. It is simply the truth. The truth, as the prophet Zechariah wrote, in the last days, people from all nations will want to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. Let’s keep traditions alive so we all can have the opportunity to touch Jesus’ hem. Shall we?
Divine gifts – sharing religious traditions with family opens us up to experience grace and truth.
In Part 4, the last of the “Fall into the Bible” series, we will see how two Old Testament and one New Testament stories helps us understand how faith can thwart a military attack, surrendering power affirms God’s sovereignty and worship requires surrendering of self.
Read the three phrases below.
The characters in the 2 Samuel story for this blog post are King David, his son, Soloman, and an army of men who want to kill David. To better understand this 2 Samuel 17:12 verse, let’s read the entire sentence.
12 Then we will attack him wherever he may be found, and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive.
Here, we see an army of men that will fall on David as dew settles on the ground. So, how does dew relate to this? Interesting minds want to know!
Going back to general science 101, we learn that temperature and air play critical roles in the dew process. The higher the temperature, the more water vapor the air holds. In the evening, depending on the atmospheric pressure and humidity, the air can no longer retain the water vapor, and hence water forms. It forms on the ground from the ground up, so it blankets the earth.
Saved by Faith
In Fall on him, it is an attack. Sudden. From all points. Like dew. Quite ominous when you think about it. In this scripture, it is not Spirit, like we saw in the previous blog post, Fall into the Bible – Part 1. It is an army of men planning to attack King David. At the end of this story, King David and his army are safe. Why are they safe? God keeps David safe because of the faith he has. King David lives till the age of seventy, passing the throne on to his son, Solomon.
Surrender of Power
In the second phrase, from the book of Ezekiel, the Lord is speaking through his Hebrew prophet, Ezekiel. There,
“The sword will fall from his hand” refers to Pharoah’s imminent loss of power. It is clearly God exerting influence and control over Egypt. It is a surrender. Let’s read the entire verse,
22 Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt. I will break both his arms, the good arm as well as the broken one, and make the sword fall from his hand.
Hmmm. God will break Pharaoh’s arms? Metaphorically, of course! The visions of Ezekiel were prophetic and centered around judgment on Israel, Judgment of nations (Egypt as one of them), and future blessings for Israel. Then, Ezekiel warns of destruction. And in this scripture, we see the warning of the destruction of Egypt. Ezekiel taught the importance of people needing to affirm God’s sovereignty.
Surrender of Self
In our third phrase in the tenth verse of Chapter 4 in Revelation, there is a surrender.
“Fall down before him“
Surrender of self. It is also respect. Respect for God. Respect for themselves and others. Respect for the earth and the totality of creation leads to worship!
10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
A Simple Gesture
What actually creates a stir in one’s soul? Is it Spirit? Is it logic? Is it faith? All good questions. For me, it is angels! The Godcidents, like the woman at the Rest Area the other day, overheard we didn’t have utensils for our lunch. She handed me four individually wrapped plastic utensils. Brilliant! Personal! It was a God Thing to me! All in the simple gesture of a kind person.
Over these past four blogs, we have broadened our perception of the word “fall.” Whether it be the Bright Light Path, the Deep Dark Path, or the Path Filled with Grace, we have seen it used for spiritual and physical purposes. If we choose to allow the Spirit of God to enter our life, we gain spirit wisdom at the global, personal, and relationship levels. We have freedom of choice. Thanks be to God!
Instead of falling into the hype of the holiday season, what would it look like if you took a step back and pondered what really is essential to you? Is it to mend a relationship? To spend more time with your children? Your parents? Or is it to reach out to someone less fortunate who could really use a helping hand?
Let’s focus on more simple ways of celebrating the holidays in this season of Thanksgiving. Shall we?
In this blog post, I will look at these “fall” phrases in The Bible where the word “fall” and the personal pronoun “me” is used. Go ahead and read each of them.
Who or what is falling? In Fall into the Bible – Part 1: Three Spirit Pearls of Wisdom for You, posted on October 11, 2021, we read how we can choose to accept God’s love or not. We learned that the Spirit of God provides us with inner Wisdom when we tap into the depths of our soul when we are quiet and receptive. This blog post will focus on Spirit and choosing the path filled with grace.
The Bright Light Path
There certainly is a propensity to make good decisions and see the good in all things – don’t you think? Most of us like happy endings. The fairy tale. The underdog. The success story. Yet, in real life, we make decisions in situations where there is little information. Take dating. Do we go out with this new person? There is a choice. Trust and be positive or doubt and have anxiety. It does not need to be an either-or decision. We can be optimistic and still cautious as we enter into a new relationship.
Now, let’s look at a relationship with God. We really have little information. Right? God’s profile is not on a dating app. So, what exactly do we know? We know that there is a force in this world that made the world what it is. Genesis 1:1-2:3 details The Creation Story for those of you who might need a refresher. Simply, let’s just say that God created every living, breathing creature that exists today in the world. Are you with me so far?
Point 1. God created every living, breathing creature.
In Genesis 1:2, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the SpiritofGod was hovering over the waters.” Then, in Genesis 2:7, we read, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Then, fast forward a few thousand years, and we see in Matthew 3:16, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” Hmmm. So, here we have the Spirit of God from the Old Testament, making a debut in the New Testament.
If you are like me, you might now be thinking, what is the difference between the Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit? At first, having thought that the Holy Spirit was a New Testament construct, I was pretty surprised that the Holy Spirit was first mentioned in Psalm 51:11. It is when David lamented to God after he was rebuked by Nathan about his affair with Bathsheba and having her husband murdered, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. My theory was incorrect. After a bit of digging, most scholars believe there to be no difference between the Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit. Whew! That’s a relief!
Point 2. Spirit of God and Holy Spirit are used interchangeably.
Back to the four verses above. Re-read them now.
Fall on me – Psalm 69:9 | Fall on me and my family – 2 Sam. 24:17
Fall in behind me – 2 Kings 9:18 | Fall away on account of me – Matt 26:31
In the context of Psalm 69, David is crying out to God, and he is asking God to save him, and he is feeling like a foreigner in his own home. Others’ insults of God “fall on him.” David is choosing to have faith and not let the insults get to him. David is choosing God.
From a different perspective, “fall on me” can be seen as a request that may sound something like this, “God, please have your spirit fall on me.” The same can be said about the second verse, “fall on me and my family.” We ask for the Spirit of God to shower us with love and blessings. We trust God in the hope that we “fall” toward the light. The light of the triune God. The light of Wisdom. The good. In other words, faith.
In 2 Samuel, God is asking David to prepare for battle against Israel. God was angry toward Israel and sent an angel to strike down people. When David saw what was going on, he begged God to punish him and his family to spare the innocent as he said to God, “Let your hand fall on me and my family.” So, here we see an angry God and a faithful David. In the end, David builds an altar and offers a burnt sacrifice, and God ends the battle.
Point 3. Faith is a choice.
“Fall on me” can also be a plea, especially in times of trial and tribulation. We may cry out, “Help us!” as we ask for protection. So, if God created every living creature, wouldn’t it be only natural for us to want to find favor with God?
The Deep Dark Path
As Christians, we all have strayed from time to time, and we have allowed Satan to influence us. Our decisions. Our friends. Our surroundings. Our entertainment.“Fall in behind me”is authoritative. It can refer to commanding Satan, or the Evil One, to “get behind me.” In this scenario, we exert our authority over Satan, and we begin to gain control of the situation. In other words, trying to turn a bad situation from spiraling out of control. If we don’t do that, evil can overcome us and separate us from God. We really don’t want to do that, do we?
In 2 Kings 9:18, Jehu was anointed by the prophet Elijah, King of Israel. Elijah instructs him to destroy the house of Ahab. As his enemies approach, Jehu asks, “Do you come in peace?” And, when they do not answer, Jehu commands them to “fall in behind me.” Jehu ends up killing two kings and ordering eunuchs to throw Jezebel out the window to her death, as seen in verse 36, “…This is the word of the Lord that he spoke through his servant Elijah the Tishbite: On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs will devour Jezebel’s flesh.“
So, the question is, does sin really separate us from God? From the 2 Kings story, murder is condoned, which certainly adds a bit of mystery to the whole sin concept. Yet, we must remember that Jehu was following God’s instruction. As we see in the New Testament, God emerges as a more loving and less angry deity.
Sin does separate us from God; remember, there is grace. Grace to bring us back into harmony with God. When we feel God “falling away on account of me,” it is vital to recognize our shortcomings and ask God to help us overcome them. Not only when we strayed, but when we may have pushed God away.
Can you think of something or someone you may have lost or broken on account of something you said or did by pushing or pulling too hard? I know that I tried too hard with my children. To be completely different from my mother, I wanted to be the “involved” mother to my children. You know the type. The one who is the class parent. Then, the head of all the class parents. The parent who leads one of the segments of the annual school play and teaches Sunday School. The one that just goes over the top. Pushing too hard without even realizing that being involved with all the “parent” activities, there was very little time left to play that favorite video game. Or the patience to play the Monopoly game. Or the time to just be there when my child needed me the most. Even in the bad…there is good news! The good news is God loves us even when we push, pull, or fall away.
The Path Filled With Grace
Separation from God may prevent us from blessings; yet, accepting God’s invitation of love and grace gets us back on track. The right track. The track to more blessings. The path that grants us the privilege and honor to be called a child of God.
In this blog post, I have taken the liberty of looking at random phrases in The Bible where the word “fall” is used. Go ahead and read each of them:
Now, re-read them. What do you see? How do you feel? At first, the word submission comes to my mind. Yet, maybe surrendering is the better word. In Julie Lopes’ blog, Dancing with God, she reflects on the meaning of submission and surrendering. She says that surrendering is an act of love where we respond to an invitation, whereas submission has a power and control element. So, with that, we will look at these phrases collectively from a surrendering viewpoint.
Falling is an act of surrender. Surrendering to God, oneself, and to others. In the first three verses, there is the commonality of anatomy – heads, side, feet. What do you see or feel?
For me, there is a sense of Jesus. Jesus dying on the cross, hanging his head, and being pierced in his side and through his feet. I see a total surrendering. Surrendering of physical body and spirit. Jesus takes his last breath, and in that, he is providing salvation to the world. Abba Father, Why have you forsaken me? Jesus surrendered as an invitation for us to surrender our wants, desires, and purpose to God.
The fourth and fifth verses are analogous to the wealthy man who must sell all of his possessions to “get eternal life.” In this case, the surrendering is his tangible assets. Jesus tells the man if he wants to be perfect, he would need to sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor. Scripture says, “he went away sad,” leading to believe he chose his possessions over entering the Kingdom of God.
How often do we feel so secure, confident, and powerful that we would not want to give that up? Some of us work hard in our careers wishing to get to the next leadership position, and we don’t. Promotions are sometimes given to those who don’t work as hard. Or those who have less tenure? Or, perhaps to the person with the right pedigree, not the one who actually has the skills and experience. Falling from a secure position requires trust. And faith. Often, we fail to see what is ahead of us, or at least we fail in trusting God to direct our lives. Speaking from experience, God wants the details, and God wants alone time with you. We need to place our lives, position, power, and children in God’s hands. Then, we can enter into eternal life. Essentially, we need to “die” to self and “live” to faith.
We can’t get up unless we have fallen. The last verse is speaking to all of us. We will all have hills and valleys in life. In other words, trials and tribulations are part of it. And to overcome these obstacles, we must fall into them, and through them, we can come out the other side as more robust and more faithful people.
In this Fall season of thanksgiving, I invite you to “fall.” “Fall” into your hills and valleys, and lying in the depths of the ravine, cry out to God. Give God your everything. Only then you will be able to stand tall, brush yourself off, and spread God’s love to others.
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